Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

All the Neuroses That Are Fit to Print

Posted in General, On This Day on November 17th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

November 17, 1869:  the Suez Canal is open for business.

Several years ago, I wrote an article on the construction of the Suez Canal.  In my research I read the New York Times’ coverage of the politics and theatrics that were inevitable in the engineering feat.  Even more amazing than building a hundred mile long canal through the desert is the fact that the prose style of the Times has not changed in 150 years.  The Times was unbelievably pompous back then, too.

In his account of the Canal’s opening in 1869, the reporter found the gala celebration to be a wonderful excuse to talk about himself.  (Ironically, the reporter’s name is not identified, surprising discretion for a monumental megalomaniac.)  Apparently neither the canal’s builder Ferdinand de Lesseps nor the Viceroy of Egypt had a greater challenge or higher calling than to entertain the New York Times.  I am sorry to say that the Canal got a poor review, however.  The reporter had unsatisfactory seating in the parade of boats floating down the canal; the receptions were too crowded (the Empress of France and the Austrian Emperor were served food before the Times); the fireworks were too loud and garish.    If only Peter Sellars or at least Julie Taymor had been allowed to build the Suez Canal!

I also found the Times’ report of the debate in Parliament after Disraeli’s brilliant if probably illegal coup in acquiring the ownership of the Suez Canal in 1875.  The Viceroy of Egypt had gone bankrupt and, beset by creditors, he offered his share of the Canal for a relatively paltrey 4 million British pounds.  We can speculate why Disraeli had such a gift for buying wholesale,  but he certainly appreciated a bargain and seized the opportunity.  There was a rival offer from a French business consortium, but  Disraeli was prepared to outbid it.  However, the French offered ready money while Disraeli was handicapped by British banking hours.  The Bank of England was closed for the weekend.

But Disraeli was on excellent terms with the Rothschild family.   (Do I need to explain why?)  He went that evening to the home of his friend Lionel Rothschild and asked for the money.  The banker was finishing his dinner, enjoying a dessert of muscatel grapes.  He asked Disraeli what would be the collateral for the loan.  Disraeli replied, “the British government.”  Rothschild answered, “You shall have the money in the morning.”  In fact, the Rothschild loan was on better terms than the Bank of England could have offered.  The Rothschilds offered immediate money, the same rate of interest and–at no extra cost–assumed complete responsiblity for the transfer of the funds from London to the Viceroy himself.

So Britain acquired control of the Suez Canal, and Parliament learned about it in the newspapers.  (Disraeli did have the tact to tell Queen Victoria.)  Of course, Parliament would discuss the matter after the fact, but what could it do or say?  Cancel such a brilliant feat?  Yes, it could complain about the questionable legality of the purchase; but even the opposition  had to concede that the situation did not permit time for a debate.   Nonetheless, the Liberal leader William Gladstone felt obliged to raise one issue–how was the Viceroy of Egypt going to spend that money!

Gladstone expressed his fears that the money would be used to finance Egypt’s invasion of Ethopia.  Apparently Gladstone had just seen a production of  “Aida” and confused the opera’s plot with Egypt’s foreign policy.  Egypt had indeed attempted to conquer Sudan–and was losing.  The Egyptian losses were one of the chief reasons that the Viceroy was bankrupt.  Given the fact that the Viceroy already was losing one war, he was unlikely to start another.  However, this hypothetical situation was the chief complaint that Gladstone raised against acquiring the Suez Canal.

Finding the Times  coverage of this debate, I anticipated reading a dazzling rhetorical duel between the two great rivals of British politics.  Disraeli is still renowned for his wit, and I imagined him devastating the self-righteous, humorless Gladstone.  Yet, the Times story did not quote Disraeli at all.  He must have said something; he was never known for modesty or reticence.  But here he was at his political heights, and the Times did not bother noting what he had to say.  Only Gladstone’s pontifications were printed.  Imagine a movie review of “Duck Soup” but only Margaret Dumont is mentioned.

If the Times preferred Gladstone to Disraeli, the newspaper had a liberal bias even then.


p.s.  If you would like to read the article (and how can you resist), click on this link and go to page 26.

Sunday Sundry

Posted in General, On This Day on August 28th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

Oh for the good old days, when megalomaniac tyrants had a sense of style.  Who wouldn’t want to be under Mussolini’s thumb, knowing those brass knuckles were from Bulgari!  And Saddam Hussein’s palaces were obvious homages to MGM classics; at least one of his wives had to be Norma Shearer.  But Muammar Qaddafi evidently shops at Target.  Perusing the architecture and decor of his homes, the New York Times was dismayed by his tackiness.

Given Colonel Qaddafi’s noted flamboyance, the residences of the House of Qaddafi were not quite as grand as people might have supposed.

They lacked the faux grandeur of Saddam Hussein’s marbled palaces. There are no columns that bear the colonel’s initials, or fists cast to resemble his hands or river-fed moats with voracious carp.

His overt support of terrorism apparently is not so abhorent as his interior decorating.  The man’s style is “Seventies”.  His epauletted wardrobe may have been “Sergeant Pepper” but his living room was “The Wonder Years.”  Qaddafi probably had kept plastic covers on his nuclear reactors.

The New York Times is so disappointed in him.


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Hi, I’m Eugene And I Have This Special Offer….

Posted in General on August 27th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

There are some real advantages to subscribing to The New York Times

I subscribe to exclusive benefits
Dear Home Delivery Subscriber,As a subscriber, you have access to more than just the delivery of the newspaper. Your subscription includes FREE benefits :

  1. The exclusive right to use the words post-modernist, louche, bildungsroman and Proustian in a single sentence.
  2. Free brunch at any home in the Hamptons.  Just show up with a copy of the Sunday Styles and demand the meal.
  3. Refer to Pulitzer-winning dramatists by their first name. (In the case of Mr. O’Neill, Gene may be pushing it.)
  4. Receive a complimentary tote bag or sweatshirt, emblazoned with our proud crest:  Of course, I’m insufferable.  I read The New York Times.

How to Get Published in the New York Times

Posted in General on July 22nd, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment


Dear _____

Thank you for your interest. Unfortunately, we find your article does not suit our needs at this time.
When submitting an article for publication in the New York Times, please remember the following rules.

Within the first paragraph mention your Ivy League school, a Pre-Raphaelite artist and, when applicable, any sexual orientation. For example, an essay on the International Monetary Fund could begin, “In my Junior year at Yale, I fantasized a tour of London based on the delirium tremens of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.” Please note that the International Monetary Fund was not mentioned here and indeed could be omitted from the entire article. This would be irony–and we just love that.

Please remember that any submitted article must contain the following words or phrases: post-modernist, bildungsroman, louche, byzantine, angst and “the alleged works of William Shakespeare.”

Following these precepts will elevate you above those presumptuous parvenus whose slush pile entries are just a needless risk of papercuts. And even if your article is still rejected, think of it as being slapped in the face by Marcel Proust. You can feel a little more significant just by the mere contact.

While Flossin’ My Teeth With My Unibrow….

Posted in General on May 13th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

The New York Times has a preconception of me. Forsakened in the Midwestern wilderness, I am presumed to be unibrowed, toothless and married to a first cousin. My Masters’ degree–being only from Northwestern–must be in manual labor. Yes, I do vote Democratic–as the Times would wish–but it is only because my unibrowed, toothless alderman promised me a garbage can lid, which I would use as a plate and an umbrella.

So imagine the shock to my drooling neanderthal sensibilities to read the Times article on the dynamic, presidential, charismatic Rod Blagojevich. (Apparently, Senator Obama does not have a monopoly on those adjectives.) That glowing description of Illinois’ governor is all the surprising because I don’t know anyone who likes him. Blagojevich is sleazy, corrupt, incompetent and abrasive. The governor has practically institutionalized bribery. His Republican predecessor went to prison for corruption–and he was more subtle. Blagojevich even has a bad haircut; a page boy does not suit his fifty-year old head. The man is a Democrat but I would gladly vote against him.

Unfortunately, the Republican party of Illinois cannot decide whether it is dead or just surreal. Its last senatorial candidate was Alan Keyes, who lives in Maryland. (Yes, but he was a documented migrant worker.) The party’s senior statesman is the Presbyterian Ru Paul; who knew that kilts came in hot pink! Against the execrable Blagojevich, the G.O.P. slated a lady who looked like she owned 18 cats and never seemed quite sober. The National G.O.P. has simply written off Illinois, at least until the Second Coming and Lincoln’s resurrection (although Lincoln now would be a Democrat.) In other words, we are stuck with Blagojevich–at least until he decides to run for President.

So what does the New York Times see in him that evidently escaped the notice of everyone in Illinois? He is not “IVY” and he did not name his children for his favorite characters from Proust. Perhaps incompetence, corruption and outlandish hair are post-modernist irony. I have long suspected the Times despises the “people:” Government of the vulgar, by the vulgar and for the vulgar. Now it is no longer a suspicion.